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Scholarships to honor bombing victims

Sep. 12, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- An anonymous donor has given $2,000 to establish four $500 scholarships at Marshall University in memory of four young girls who were killed in a racially motivated church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963.

Raquel Whitmore, Rebecca Britton, Donavia Beltran and Jasmine Felder, who are current Marshall University students, will receive the scholarships at a presentation and remembrance of the bombing at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, in the Drinko Library Atrium.

The African American 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham was nearly destroyed by a bomb placed there on Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963. The blast killed the four girls, who ranged from ages 11 to 14, and injured 23 others as they attended Sunday school classes. The church had been a rallying point for civil rights activities during the spring of that year and was a meeting place for civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth.

The donor, said Maurice Cooley, director of the Center for African American Students, had just finished reading Carolyn Maull McKinstry's book, "While the World Watched," about those events. She was so moved that she was inspired to offer these gifts, he said.

In addition to being anonymous, the donor requested the recipients be current African American female students at Marshall, that the awards be given before the anniversary date of the bombing and that each scholarship bear the name of one of the bombing victims: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair. In addition, the donor has purchased four copies of McKinstry's book, which will be presented to the scholarship recipients during Thursday's event.

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